Published:  12:00 AM, 18 March 2017

Concern about poor quality of construction

A girder section of the much-publicized Magbazar-Malibagh flyover in Dhaka fell down on Monday killing one and seriously maiming two others. Luckily, not many people were under this girder when it came down; otherwise, it would surely take a heavy toll if more people happened to be under it. A similar mishap occurred in this section of the flyover in the past and resulted in casualties. In this connection, one also remembers about a big section of a flyover collapsing after its building in Chittagong in 2015. It required rebuilding. The media reported some months ago about a government run school building  being built with bamboos detected in the concrete east  instead of iron rods  to allow the contractor to reduce construction costs and make windfall gains. Many infrastructures being built with public finance could ultimately prove to be risky and wasteful.

 The infrastructures being built with public resources however do not all fall under the category of shoddy construction. Indeed, there are projects including the nationally very important Padma Bridge which fully meet the criterion for healthy construction in all respects. And such sound projects are plentiful. The incumbent government has firmly established its credentials as a 'doer', no doubt. Its claim that unlike any other time in the past it remains engaged in building all kinds of infrastructures in large numbers which are contributing to the development of the country, would be hardly contradicted by different quarters. But it is also notable that when nobody would sensibly dispute the need of building such structures with public money in the interest of accelerating economic development, there is also the other side to this building spree. It is also as much fair to say that there are many projects financed by the government where the contractors have had a free ride with hand in glove type of a relationship with corrupt supervising government officials.

All kinds of negative outcomes arise from such carelessly built projects. Not only those would continue to be risky after completion. Most of these projects are purposefully delayed with the hidden objective of inflating the total pie of construction costs so that the share of the contractors and corrupt government officials can become bigger. For example, the flyover at Malibagh the girder of which crashed, has had four yearly extension  of its construction completion date. Thus, its total constructions costs have bloated to a very high  amount unduly and people are also being deprived of  the opportunity to use it at an early date. Therefore, the challenge is to flush public construction activities completely clean of such  corrupt people  regardless of whether they are private contractors or government officials like engineers put in charge of closely supervising the quality of construction of such projects. This has become imperative in view of so many charges being made about great theft and irregularities occurring in the realm of construction activities under the government's auspices.

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